Finding and losing friends through travels
Traveling connects you with many people, while sometimes it leads to a disconnection with some other people you already have in your life.
On my travels, I meet many people and I love that - it is one of the main reasons I love to travel. Some of these encounters even turn into friendships for a lifetime. But to make new friends while traveling, you have to have an open mind.
If you tend to be one of those travelers who have every second of your travels already organized before even starting the trip, you will probably not have the time to meet anyone, unless they are on the same trip like you.
But if you are like me, only planning the most crucial steps along the way (like how to get there and back and maybe some ideas of what to see and where to go), a whole new world awaits you. You will wander around, talk to locals, talk to strangers, taking in the moments that are there and many opportunities will open up.
If it weren't for being open minded, my friend and I would have never went to that secluded beach in Zakynthos only locals knew about. Or I would not have been invited to go for lunch with some street musicians in Barcelona I was listening to, or have a spontaneous private party thrown by some barkeepers for my 20th birthday. And for sure, I would not have met this Russian girl from Amsterdam in Havanna who turned out to be one of my closest friends with many more travels together throughout the years (and many more to come).
Yes, sure, not everybody has the ability to be as liberal with things like that as me, some people are more reserved or just don't like or need to meet new people - and that is perfectly fine as well. But if you really want to get in touch with new people along your travels, here are some tips:
If you travel often and independently, you might arrive at a point where you also lose some friends along the way. It might be during your trip - because you don't agree on the hotel or the next stop. It might be long after the holiday, because things come up that were not ok for your friends but they never told you until then. Or it might be that you just simply grow apart during the holiday or after, because the travels changed your world view - you realize that you are not on the same page with your friend anymore. I "lost" one of my best friends who travelled with me many times on a holiday. We are still friends, but far from being that close as before. And up until today, I don't know the entire reason. Was it me, was it the destination that was maybe not what she was expecting or was it because she was freshly in love and rather wanted to be back home with him? I have struggled long with this, but at some point you just have to accept it and move on and focus on your own life.
Here maybe a few tips to avoid losing friends for the most simple reasons:
And most of all: never allow any of these points to keep you from traveling.
What are your experiences? Do you have more or different tips?
Volunteering with the NGO Photographers Alliance and Sustainable Roots in Ecuador
„A bucket of water needs every drop to be full. Your drop may be tremendously tiny, but if you are not there, the bucket is not full.“
These words by Toni Walters perfectly describe, why volunteering is important even though nowadays it is hip and trendy. If done for the right reasons, that is.
I am a big fan of volunteering and spend as many of my holidays volunteering in different projects as possible. This time, I had the opportunity to join a different experience of the same. I signed up for a week of volunteering at Sustainable Roots in Ecuador in a mentorship program of the NGO Photographers Alliance. You spend the week in a volunteering project, helping and taking pictures getting workshops and 1:1 tips by a professional photographer. The project can then use your best shots for fundraising and also a part of the program fees are used for that project as well as to save children around the world from preventable blindness.
Sounds to good to be true? All I can say, this was an amazing experience and a win-win situation for everybody. I got to up my skills and knowledge in photography, spent a week with amazing people in a superb project and just had the best of times.
What does Sustainable roots do? The project is the brainchild of founder Toni Walters, who came to Cosanga, Ecuador in 2004 to study caterpillars. A few years later, Sustainable Roots was officially launched and she stayed permanently in Cosanga.
The organization does everything to help the local community. They provide free education for all ages (english, arts, leisure etc.), organic gardening and reforestation projects and they organize monthly Mingas. Mingas are community work days where the whole town works together to improve the village. While we were there, they had a Minga to paint the newly built stairs in the village and to decorate it with a richly planted terrace system on both sides. The whole town was working hard, schlepping stones and plants, painting, digging, planting. And the result is stunning.
Cosanga is a small village in the Napo valley near Quito. The community is unlike any other community I have experienced so far. Everybody was extremely welcoming, warm and charming and they had a lot of patience with non-spanish speakers. And the kids were just amazingly cute, all of them. They were super interested in knowing our names and seeing our pictures and especially to get a hold on our cameras and phones to go take pictures themselves. And like the rest of Ecuador, the community was extremely affectionate and heartily and I could not help but fall in love with all of them.
Sustainable Roots can only work because of the help of many volunteers, short term or long term. Volunteers experience everything first-hand. They teach english at the organization and the local school, they help in the garden project as well as with the reforestation of the cloud forest. You hardly get a more hands-on volunteering experience than this.
The other benefits of spending time in Cosanga: Food is extremely yummy and you get to experience Ecuadorian specialties like Cevichocho or Empandas verde - and all that on a shoestring. Also, you get to be outdoors a lot and indulge in being in a cloud/rainforest area with the most incredible diversity of green you can think of. Imagine the joys of running around in rain boots almost every day, jumping from puddle to puddle.
And did I mention the kids of Cosanga?
Are you intrigued and want to book your stay with Sustainable Roots in Cosanga? Check out the link in the TRAVEL TIPS section for more details. I promise, you won’t regret going there.
How to travel a little bit different than other people
Tell me how you travel and I tell you who you are…
There are 8 billion people in the world and almost as many possibilities to travel. Personally, I don’t like to do and see what hundreds of other people already have seen. Therefore, I choose to travel a little bit different. Let me tell you about the different means of travelling I use:
Easily my most favorite means of traveling. You get to see aspects of the country you travel to that you wouldn’t see while traveling with mass tourism. There are many different kinds of volunteering for all kinds of budgets. Some projects will not charge you to volunteer, but most projects need to, just to cover the basic costs like food and lodging. And because it is very trendy now, some projects use the opportunity to even make a decent amount of many. So research well!
Volunteering can be more rewarding than spending 2 weeks at the beach. At least for me. And in some projects, you can even spend the volunteering time at the beach (check out the „volunteering in costa rica“ post). To know what kind of volunteering you would want to do narrows down the possible projects: wildlife conservation, nature conservation, building fountains/schools etc., teaching overseas, wwoofing etc. If you need addresses, send me a message, I’ll be happy to help.
Yes, that word is not a real word, I just made that up. It sums up pretty good how I research what to see in a country I visit. Open Google, insert the country/city you are traveling to plus "what to see“ and hit enter. You will easily get a few hundred pages. Now jump to page 50 or even higher and look at the results there. These will be your destinations. And I promise you, they will not be highly touristic, but totally worth seeing.
Of course, in historic cities, there are a few landmarks from the top 3 pages I want to see as well, but the rest of the holidays, I degoogle.
Also one of my favourite ways of traveling. If you are open minded and have no problem with not having a fixed program while traveling, this is something for you.
Book your flight/train and maybe a hotel for the first night and that’s it. the rest you will plan along the way. Just see where the country takes you. If you are one minded and up for it, you will get to know many people, locals or other tourists and they will give you many ideas or even join you.
I recently discovered this. There is an agency called bbacksoon. Basically, you give them a budget, a timing and your no goes for traveling and they do the rest. You will not know what is planned until the night before you travel. That works locally in Switzerland as well as overseas. Surely there are similar agencies in other countries. I just travelled a few days in Ecuador with them and it was amazing (read more about Ecuador soon on my blog or check out travelflavour on instagram for some recent pics).
Travel couch surfing
If you are young or young at heart and don’t need your comfy mattress every night, you might give couch surfing a try. Every country in this world has Hosts, offering their couch or a bed in a spare room to guests, for free. You get to stay a few nights with a local and if he/she is up to it, you even get to spend some time with them, getting to know the local culture even better. Or if you don’t have the time to travel, you can offer your couch or spare bedroom and have couch surfers from everywhere staying with you.
Have you ever tried one of those means of traveling? What are your experiences, would you do it again? And if not, why not?
I am a swiss photographer (www.fmphotography.ch),
a travel, wildlife, volunteer and outdoors addict who cares about zero waste, the environment and simply our planet.